30. San Antonio Spurs
Key Additions: Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley, Gorgui Dieng, Isaiah Roby
Meet one of your early favorites for the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes. Wembanyama, of course, is the projected No. 1 pick of next year’s draft. The Spurs staked their claim for being one of the league’s worst teams next season by trading away their best player in Dejounte Murray — while receiving three first-round picks and Danilo Gallinari (who was immediately cut) in the process. Expect plenty of losses for a Spurs team that somehow ended up in the play-in tournament last year.
It should be noted that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has shot down the notion of “tanking” in years past. The all-time great coach has now seemingly embraced the chance of increasing San Antonio’s lottery odds. We wouldn’t count Popovich out just yet of fielding a competent team, but the Spurs are an odds-on favorite to finish with one of the worst records in basketball next year.
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29. Houston Rockets
Key Additions: Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason, TyTy Washington, Trey Burke
After looking feisty through parts of the season, the Rockets limped to the end of the regular season on a 6-30 skid. Houston hopes another year of experience for its young stars plus the addition of a gifted scorer in rookie Jabari Smith Jr. will help get them back on track. This team making a playoff run in a deep Western Conference seems like a stretch in 2023.
Building chemistry with its young core is a feat far more manageable. How Smith Jr. fits next to Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. is of the utmost importance. In all likelihood, the Rockets will be adding another top-5 pick to this group next year.
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28. Utah Jazz
Key Additions: Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, Malik Beasley, Talen Horton-Tucker, Stanley Johnson, Jarren Vanderbilt, Walker Kessler
What an offseason it has been for the Jazz. Another early playoff exit was enough for team CEO Danny Ainge to start shaking things up. After sending Royce O’Neale to Brooklyn, the Jazz broke the internet with the news that Rudy Gobert had been traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for a treasure trove of first-round picks. While he has his warts as a player, Gobert’s elite rim protection and rebounding had kept an otherwise decrepit Utah defense afloat. His departure signaled that the Jazz were entering a new phase of team building.
Ainge wasn’t done there. In a surprise move to some, the Jazz traded away three-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, and 2022 first-round pick Ochai Agbaji. Utah’s rebuild has officially commenced as they add their name to the potential teams that could finish with the best lottery odds for ’23.
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27. Indiana Pacers
Key Additions: Bennedict Mathurin, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Nesmith, Daniel Theis
After attempting to make a playoff push with a handful of veterans last year, the Pacers are now turning to their young core. Domantas Sabonis was shipped out last year. Malcolm Brogdon is now gone, and both Buddy Hield and Myles Turner will likely follow suit soon.
Looking to the future, the Pacers seemingly have their core backcourt figured out with first-round pick Bennedict Mathurin joining Tyrese Haliburton. The two young Pacers complement each other quite well and should be an exciting duo to watch in 2023.
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26. Oklahoma City Thunder
Key Additions: Chet Holmgren, Ousmane Dieng, Jalen Williams, Jaylin Williams
Winning hasn’t been overly important to this Thunder franchise in recent years. It’s allowed GM Sam Presti to accrue a bevy of young talent through lottery picks and trades. Unique big man Chet Holmgren headlines a draft class which includes four first-round picks.
They’ll be joining fringe All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, All-Rookie First-Team selection Josh Giddey, and the recently-extended Luguentz Dort. It may not be a playoff-caliber roster just yet, but OKC is stockpiling talent and could be on the rise sooner rather than later.
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25. Detroit Pistons
Key Additions: Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Kevin Knox
There might not be a more exciting young core in basketball than the Detroit Pistons. We saw what Cade Cunningham was capable of as a rookie. Following a sluggish start, Cunningham shined towards the latter half of the season. His shot-making and creation will work perfectly alongside Detroit’s most recent first-round pick, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey. The Cunningham-Ivey backcourt has a chance to be special and uplift the Pistons into an Eastern Conference power in the years to come.
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24. Orlando Magic
Key Additions: Paolo Banchero, Caleb Houstan
How will No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero fare in his rookie season? If Banchero lives up to his billing, the Magic could potentially sneak into the play-in tournament. This is a team not completely devout of talent. Franz Wagner was a Rookie of the Year contender for a majority of his freshman campaign, and Jalen Suggs looked like an elite defender before dealing with several injuries.
Not to mention, getting guys like Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac back will only grant even more lineup flexibility. Second-year coach Jamahl Mosley has a far better roster to work with in Year 2.
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23. Washington Wizards
Key Additions: Johnny Davis, Monte Morris, Will Barton, Delon Wright
The Wizards ultimately had no choice but to ink Bradley Beal to a max contract this offseason. Beal’s new deal will keep him on the team for the next five years as the Wizards will “attempt” to build a team around the three-time All-Star. However, it doesn’t appear like Washington has the facilities to field a potential contender in the near future — unless Kristaps Porzingis, Kyle Kuzma, or one of the youngsters develop into an All-Star caliber player.
Washington selected Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis in the draft — a pick which made more sense after seeing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shipped to Denver this offseason. Davis will likely start in the backcourt alongside Beal with former Nugget Monte Morris operating as the backup point guard. The Wizards have a chance to hover around .500, but will need Beal to play up to his lucrative contract for that to occur.
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22. Charlotte Hornets
Key Additions: Mark Williams, Bryce McGowens
It’s been a tumultuous offseason for the Hornets, to say the least. It started with an absolute puzzling coaching search. Coming off the franchise’s first winning record since ’16, the Hornets fired James Borrego after four years with the team. Taking his place will be Steve Clifford…who was the team’s head coach in favor of Borrego four years ago. Charlotte reportedly had a deal in place with Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson, but Atkinson ultimately turned it down.
In more disturbing news, restricted free agent Miles Bridges recently received felony charges for domestic violence. Bridges is being accused of assaulting his girlfriend in front of their two children. The 24-year-old recently plead not guilty. Bridges was in line for a near max-extension this offseason, and had built an on-court rapport with franchise cornerstone LaMelo Ball.
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21. Sacramento Kings
Key Additions: Keegan Murray, Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk
The Kings feel like they found something late last season. The combo of De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis showed excellent chemistry which the team hopes they can bring into 2023. Their coaching search landed them on Mike Brown who boasts an impressive 61-percent win rate in seven seasons as a head coach. Talent-wise, this might be the best roster top-to-bottom in recent Kings memory.
Aside from potential All-Stars in Fox and Sabonis, the Kings boast a bevy of quality rotation players in Harrison Barnes, Kevin Huerter, Davion Mitchell, Malik Monk, Richaun Holmes, Jeremy Lamb, and rookie Keegan Murray. Could this be the year the Kings finally break the playoff drought? The last time we saw this franchise in the postseason was in 2006.
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20. New York Knicks
Key Additions: Jalen Brunson, Isaiah Hartenstein, Trevor Keels
What a disappointing year it was for the Knicks. After finishing as the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference last year, the Knicks stumbled their way into the lottery in ’22. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what went wrong with a team that entered the year with sizable expectations. Julius Randle’s outside shooting regression is likely the biggest culprit. However, Derrick Rose’s absence and Tom Thibodeaux’s shaky rotations also played a part.
In an effort to bolster the offense, New York went all-in on the top point guard in free agency — Jalen Brunson — inking him to a four-year deal worth $104 million. Brunson and R.J. Barrett will try to kickstart an offense which ranked 13th in the East last year. Additionally, the Knicks hope Brunson’s presence will revitalize Randle by easing the burly forward’s burden offensively. Expectations are lower than they were last year, but there’s always some buzz about the Knicks heading into every season.
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19. Portland Trail Blazers
Key Additions: Jerami Grant, Gary Payton II, Shaedon Sharpe
Make no mistake about it, the Blazers believe they can contend for a playoff spot in 2023. That much was made clear when the team went out and traded for Jerami Grant from the Pistons and signed Gary Payton II from the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Both players provide length and defensive versatility in a starting lineup which will likely feature Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic (all three of which signed long-term deals this offseason).
Lillard’s return will ultimately determine Portland’s fate in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers legend reportedly played injured last season as he sported career-low efficiency through 29 games. At his best, the 32-year-old Lillard is one of the game’s best offensive talents and could potentially carry this group to a top-8 seed in a crowded West.
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18. Los Angeles Lakers
Key Additions: Lonnie Walker, Damian Jones, Juan Toscano-Anderson, Troy Brown Jr., Max Christie
The most disappointing team in the league in 2022 was undoubtedly the Los Angeles Lakers. With four members of the NBA’s Top 75 All-Time Team in tow, the Lakers were expected to compete for a title. Instead, the team couldn’t even reach the play-in tournament — much less the playoffs. Turns out, a team full of injury-prone 30-somethings isn’t a recipe for success in today’s league.
Rob Pelinka and company went back to the drawing board this offseason and got a whole lot younger. The additions of Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown Jr., Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson won’t be overly impactful, but it should be a nice injection of youth around the main stars. Of course, the elephant in the room remains Russell Westbrook’s future with the team. Can new head coach Darvin Ham find a more suitable role of the MVP? Or is a certain Brooklyn Net coming to town to reunite with LeBron James?
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17. Chicago Bulls
Key Additions: Andre Drummond, Goran Dragic, Dalen Terry
After a splashy offseason last year, the Bulls have been particularly quiet this time around. Maybe that’s a sign of new times for a Chicago franchise that has been desperate for stability following the Jordan years. Thus far, the most notable free agent acquisition the Bulls have made was picking up Andre Drummond to play backup center. Goran Dragic was inked to a deal but it’s uncertain how much he’ll play in a crowded backcourt. They took Arizona’s Dalen Terry with the 18th overall selection and the 6-foot-7 wing has impressed all throughout the summer.
Perhaps the Bulls realize that health is the only thing keeping them from being a top team. The Bulls were the No. 1 team in the East as late as the last week of February. Then, the injury bug struck as Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso were forced to miss extended periods of time. Not to mention, Patrick Williams appeared in just 17 games last year. With a fully healthy squad, the Bulls have a chance to again be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
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16. Atlanta Hawks
Key Additions: Dejounte Murray, AJ Griffin, Justin Holiday, Aaron Holiday, Mo Harkless
Following a disappointing year capped with an early playoff exit, the Hawks went into the offseason knowing they needed to make some major changes. In one of the biggest moves of the summer, Atlanta traded for first-time All-Star Dejounte Murray from the San Antonio Spurs. Murray projects to start alongside Trae Young to create one of the more dynamic backcourts in the league. The Hawks hope that Murray’s playmaking prowess will help unearth Young’s off-ball skills.
It feels as if the Hawks aren’t quite done making moves. John Collins has been in trade rumors for a lengthy period of time, and the Hawks just drafted a bigger wing in Duke’s AJ Griffin. With the potential for Griffin playing alongside De’Andre Hunter at the two forward spots, Collins could be on the move for another piece. The team desperately needs to improve defensively (Murray should help in this regard) after finishing 26th in defensive rating a season ago.
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15. Toronto Raptors
Key Additions: Otto Porter Jr., Christian Koloko
No surprise that the Raptors returned to the postseason in ’22 following a down year. The return of home crowds in Canada was a big boost for a Toronto team that went 48-34 just a year after finishing 18 games under .500. Pascal Siakam enjoyed a big bounce-back campaign earning All-NBA third-team honors while Fred VanVleet made his first All-Star team. This Toronto squad enjoys plenty of depth, and added to that with the addition of NBA Champion Otto Porter Jr. on the wing.
Additionally, the Raptors loom as a potential Kevin Durant landing spot. They seemingly have the resources and the GM who is creative enough to pull off such a deal. It remains to be seen if Masai Ujiri would be willing to part with reigning Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes or if a Siakam-Anunoby-plus-picks package could be enough to get it done. If the Raptors can get a deal done without completely gutting their core, they will emerge as a true threat in the East.
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14. New Orleans Pelicans
Key Additions: Dyson Daniels, EJ Liddell
The Pelicans have formed a roster capable of bypassing the play-in tournament and securing one of the top-6 seeds in the Western Conference. The trade for C.J. McCollum proved to be a coup as he complemented Brandon Ingram quite nicely during their short time together. With Zion Williamson projected to return this season, New Orleans boasts a trio of offensive stars that can create for themselves and others at a high clip.
Unfortunately, the draft class took an early hit with the news that EJ Liddell will be out for the season following knee surgery. No. 8 pick Dyson Daniels has a chance to crack the starting lineup early on. His defensive versatility and basketball IQ is an ideal fit next to the Pelicans’ top stars.
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13. Brooklyn Nets
Key Additions: TJ Warren, Royce O’Neale, Edmond Sumner, Alondes Williams
A team with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, and a whole lot of role players who can shoot and defend would likely be a strong contender to win the NBA title. But, this offseason has been anything but normal for the Brooklyn Nets. Mired by trade requests and uncertainty, it’s difficult to project exactly who will be on this team when the season tips off.
The trade market for Durant has quieted recently. Of course, Brooklyn expects a major haul for one of the league’s best players. If Durant were to be traded, that likely would cause a domino effect which could lead to Irving’s eventual departure. As of now, the Nets have a quality roster with three premier talents. Who knows how long that will last…
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12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Key Additions: Rudy Gobert, Kyle Anderson, Austin Rivers, Bryn Forbes, Wendell Moore
In the splashiest move of the offseason, the T’Wolves sent a king’s ransom to Utah for three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Minnesota is going to employ a jumbo lineup which features Gobert alongside longtime center Karl-Anthony Towns. It should make for a more formidable defensive group, though it remains to be seen how Gobert and Towns will fare against perimeter-based teams.
Offensively, Towns and Anthony Edwards are going to be difficult for opposing teams to deal with. Especially with Gobert contorting defenses with his ability to roll to the rim. Point guard D’Angelo Russell should be among the league leaders in assists given the finishing talent of this group. All eyes will be on the T’Wolves entering 2023 — and that’s already an improvement for this franchise given its history over the last two decades.
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11. Cleveland Cavaliers
Key Additions: Donovan Mitchell, Robin Lopez, Raul Neto
Donovan Mitchell is a Cleveland Cavalier. Despite reports linking the three-time All-Star to major markets like New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, it was the upstart Cavaliers that found a way to get the deal done. Mitchell joins a team with two young All-Stars (Darius Garland and Jarrett Allen) in addition to Rookie of the Year runner-up Evan Mobley. The Garland-Mitchell backcourt combination will be lethal offensively, and have plenty of support on the other end with three plus defenders in Allen, Mobley and Isaac Okoro.
Cleveland’s depth didn’t take much of a hit, either. The Cavaliers traded away Lauri Markkanen and two player that didn’t contribute to their playoff run last year in Collin Sexton and Ochai Agbaji. While adding Mitchell to form a lethal starting lineup, the Cavaliers didn’t sacrifice much depth with a bench that should include Caris LeVert, Ricky Rubio, Cedi Osman, Kevin Love, and Rajon Rondo. With the roster they’ve cultivated, Cleveland projects to be an Eastern Conference contender for years to come…
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10. Dallas Mavericks
Key Additions: Christian Wood, Javale McGee, Jaden Hardy
An unlikely run to the Western Conference Finals highlighted an impressive year for Luka Doncic and first-year head coach Jason Kidd. Though the Mavericks ultimately came up short against the eventual champion Warriors, there is still plenty to be excited about this group. Even though Jalen Brunson was lost to free agency, Dallas did recoup a bit with the acquisition of Christian Wood. Wood is an imperfect player who has yet to appear in a single postseason game, though he’s a tremendous athlete with the ability stretch the floor at 6-foot-10.
Doncic’s continued development places him as one of the five best players in the league. He’s been named an All-NBA First-Team selection three years in a row, and will likely enter the 2023 season as an early MVP favorite. He’ll need some help from Dallas’ role players, but Doncic is good enough to have this team competing in the West for another year.
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9. Denver Nuggets
Key Additions: Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Christian Braun, Ish Smith, Peyton Watson, Deandre Jordan
Denver’s offseason additions are nothing to scoff at. Brown was exceptional for the Nets over the last two seasons as a glue guy who can fill several roles. Caldwell-Pope is a steady 3-and-D threat who is a more natural fit in Denver’s starting lineup that Will Barton ever was. Braun and Watson might not be asked to do much as rookies, but are promising talents that could one day blossom into reliable rotation pieces.
That being said, the real big additions for the Nuggets in 2023 will be the return of their second and third best players — Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. The pair played just nine games total last season (all Porter Jr.) and appear to be healthy heading into this campaign. Two explosive offensive talents reuniting with a back-to-back MVP in Nikola Jokic has the Denver faithful thinking about a potential Finals run.
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8. Miami Heat
Key Additions: Nikola Jovic
The Eastern Conference runner-ups have stayed relevant in the news cycle this offseason thanks to their connection with several high-profile names. Among potential Miami targets is Kevin Durant, though the Heat’s current roster construction makes a trade difficult (Bam Adebayo cannot be acquired by Brooklyn as long as Ben Simmons is on the team). The Heat have also been linked to Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, though it’s unclear if a Tyler Herro-centric package would entice the Jazz to move off their three-time All-Star.
As their current team goes, the Heat did lose valuable starter P.J. Tucker to the 76ers. There isn’t a clear replacement for Tucker currently, though Miami did draft a 19-year-old forward Nikola Jovic and inked Victor Oladipo to another one-year deal. The Heat will remain a competitor out East, but they’ve fallen a tier below the conference’s elite teams.
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7. Memphis Grizzlies
Key Additions: Jake LaRavia, David Roddy, Kennedy Chandler, Vince Williams Jr., Kenneth Lofton Jr., Danny Green
The upstart Grizzlies took everybody by surprise en route to securing the second-best record in the Western Conference last year. Oozing confidence and athleticism, Memphis took the eventual champion Warriors to six games despite its lone All-Star, Ja Morant, missing half the series. There’s no doubting the potential of this group.
Morant (22), Jaren Jackson Jr. (22), Desmond Bane (24), and Ziaire Williams (20), should all be even better this upcoming season. Though they won’t sneak up on anybody in 2023, the Grizzlies remain a team to watch and are one of the most exciting young clubs in basketball.
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6. Philadelphia 76ers
Key Additions: P.J. Tucker, DeAnthony Melton, Danuel House
It’s been clear ever since the James Harden trade — the 76ers are going all-in. Philadelphia just polished off an offseason which saw them dish out over $100 million to Harden and P.J. Tucker over the next two years. At the Draft, the 76ers opted to ship their first-round pick to Memphis for defensive-minded guard De’Anthony Melton. Those three names will likely form one of the league’s most potent starting lineups alongside Tobias Harris and back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid.
76ers GM Daryl Morey has cultivated a roster which should compete for an NBA title. To finally get over the hump, Philly’s two stars will need to shake off their lowly playoff reputations. Especially Harden, who has routinely come up short on the game’s biggest stage. It’s now or never for the 76ers who will enter the year — once again — with massive expectations.
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5. Phoenix Suns
Key Additions: Damion Lee, Josh Okogie, Jock Landale
A once-promising season could not have ended worse for the Phoenix Suns. After running roughshod through the league in the regular season, the No. 1 seed Suns entered the playoffs as a heavy favorite. A surprisingly competitive first-round matchup with the Pelicans showed cracks in the armor. Then, after racing to a 2-0 lead and a 3-2 lead versus the Mavericks, the Suns unraveled into oblivion — capped off with one of the most embarrassing Game 7 performances in league history.
Rumors of a potential Kevin Durant trade were quickly squashed after center Deandre Ayton opted to sign a deal with the Indiana Pacers during restricted free agency. Challenged with the possibility that Ayton could walk for nothing, the Suns were forced to match and bring back the maligned center who reportedly lost favor with head coach Monty Williams at the conclusion of the Dallas series. One of the league’s best starting fives will return — Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, and Ayton — but is it enough to make a Finals run in a more competitive Western Conference?
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4. LA Clippers
Key Additions: John Wall, Moses Brown
The best team in LA projects to be the Clippers. Even before the John Wall acquisition, the Clippers looked to be one of the top teams out West. Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have struggled to stay on the floor since joining the team. However, both appear to be healthy heading into the 2023 season. The Leonard-George tandem has shown to be potent duo, and now they have a playmaking point guard to run alongside with them.
At full strength, the Clippers are one of the deepest teams in the league — especially on the wings. Adding George and Leonard to a wing group that already includes Marcus Morris, Norman Powell, Robert Covington, Nicolas Batum, Luke Kennard and Terrance Mann is a recipe for success. With a clean bill of health, the Clippers are undoubtedly a threat to finally make that elusive NBA Finals run.
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3. Milwaukee Bucks
Key Additions: Joe Ingles, MarJon Beauchamp
If Khris Middleton were healthy, the Bucks may have celebrated winning a second-straight championship. Injuries are part of the game, and Milwaukee was unable to close out the Boston Celtics in each of the final two meetings of their epic seven-game set. With Middleton back in tow, there’s plenty of reason to believe in the Bucks as the early Eastern Conference favorites.
The core nucleus is back after re-signing free agents Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Wes Matthews and Jevon Carter. Additionally, Joe Ingles was brought into the mix to provide spacing and playmaking. In the draft, the Bucks used their first-round selection on G-League standout MarJon Beauchamp — a 6-foot-6 wing in the vein of Kelly Oubre Jr. Depth is important, though as long as Giannis Antetokounmpo is donning a Bucks uniform this team will be in contention.
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2. Boston Celtics
Key Additions: Malcolm Brogdon, Danilo Gallinari, J.D. Davison
It was a miraculous run to the Finals for a Celtics team that looked all out of sorts just a couple of months before the playoffs began. Boston began clicking on all cylinders following the All-Star break, and put together an impressive postseason run knocking off the Nets, Bucks, and Heat along the way. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown remain as one of the top two-way wing duos in basketball, and they only add to the league’s best defensive core which includes Robert Williams, Al Horford, Derrick White, and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart.
Adding depth was clearly a need after Boston’s short bench ultimately doomed them down the stretch. The Celtics went out and grabbed Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari while sacrificing zero rotation players from their previous playoff run. With another year of Ime Udoka patrolling the sidelines, the Celtics enter as an early favorite in the East.
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1. Golden State Warriors
Key Additions: Donte Divincenzo, JaMychal Green, Patrick Baldwin Jr.
The Warriors once again climbed the mountain top. After entering the year a bit under-the-radar, the Warriors blitzed their opponents in the playoffs en route to their fourth championship in eight years. Stephen Curry silenced all doubters with a virtuoso performance in the NBA Finals, securing his first Finals MVP of his career. Former No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins never looked better as the perfect wing within Golden State’s system. And, the Warriors might be even better next year.
Klay Thompson never fully looked right in his first action after multiple surgeries. Another year of rehabilitation could have Thompson back to an All-NBA level. Additionally, Golden State’s young core — most notably, James Wiseman — all have a chance to improve. The Warriors are battle-tested and boast the deepest roster in the league. It’s going to be tough to dethrone this group again.
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